My Young Auntie Review

The film


Liu Chia Liang's contribution to action films is immense. His work as an action choreographer with Chang Cheh produced some of the finest action of the early seventies and his own films with Gordon Liu are martial arts classics. He directed possibly the best film of Jackie Chan's career in the second of the Drunken Master series, and he was even responsible for the best duelling chainsaws scene you'll ever see in Tiger on the Beat. On the flip side, he has made some stinkers like Drunken Master III, and I have to report that despite some good action scenes My Young Auntie is far from classic material.

The story set up is unbelievably circuitous but I'll try to explain. Cheng Tai-nan is the young ward of a rich elderly man who faced with his likely death decides to marry her so that she will inherit rather than his evil gangster brother. He charges her with travelling to find his nephew, played by the director, to bestow his worldly goods on him. The evil uncle won't give up and sends his henchmen after the curiously youthful Auntie and she will have to fight them off along with her nephew's westernised son. Inter generational comedy ensues and family quarrels give way to some butt kicking.

In my jaundiced opinion, there are two types of comedy: funny and not funny. Unfortunately, during My Young Auntie my ribs were safe from tickling and my sides were in no danger of splitting. This is often the case with foreign humour when the viewer doesn't know the culture or the references and I do make some allowance for that. The humour itself centres on the set up of having an auntie who is much younger than her nephew and the same age as his teenage son. She is also a country bumpkin dazzled by the modern ways of the big city. This leads to comedy sequences where the great nephew exposes his great aunt's untutored ways and humiliates her in front of his cool friends. It was this element of the humour that failed to work for me as scenes like the ball room sequence can be admired for their choreography but they become rather cruel because the great nephew is an insufferable idiot and a snob whose richly deserved downfall never arrives.

Where things floated my boat more were where Kara Hui got to kick butt and the excellent booby trapped garden towards the end of the film. The fight sequences are all elaborate and entertaining and Hui shows she can strut her stuff but the comedy is rather too contrived and squirm inducing. I understand others call this film a groundbreaker, but two hours without a good laugh in a comedy is hardly a recomendation. Overall I found My Young Auntie unfunny with a creeping nastiness in how it humiliates its heroine with her great nephew's bullying. Liu Chia Liang made much better films and I'd save your money for Drunken Master 2 and 36th Chamber of Shaolin.


The Disc



The film has been transferred onto a dual layer disc at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer has good black levels, is clearly a proper conversion and boasts excellent colour balance. Sharpness and detail is best in the longer lensed shots, but the softness of the background in some of the closeups(see below) is clearly a source rather than a transfer problem. Sound comes in Mandarin and an English dub which does boast Asian actors doing the dubbing. There is mild background noise in some scenes, although the sound overall is clear with music, effects and voices all well represented. The English subtitles are strong.
The extras on the disc include an interview with Kara Hui who still looks elegant and gorgeous all these years later. She talks about her career and corrects some misconceptions about herself whilst being very appreciative of her co-stars. The interview lasts 13 minutes and Hui is good company throughout. The second interview is with David Klein and Alan Chute as they discuss the film in the light of its director and as an example of a film with a martial arts heroine. Their comments are not always particularly insightful or coherent - at one point Hui had made two films before this and at another point, it's her debut. The two also describe the film as hilarious and try to mine some wholly imagined humour from Gordon Liu's role in the film. Klein is also paired with Elvis Mitchell for another commentary which is really aimed at people new to the genre and contains some rather unscholarly statements and parallels drawn to movies that have nothing in common with this film. I haven't liked the commentaries which have accompanied these Dragon Dynasty discs, especially King Boxer, and I feel that Mitchell and Klein are getting paid for some pretty undistinguished work here.

We get lots of trailers, including two of this film, ten assorted Shaw brothers titles and three from Dragon Dynasty's more modern releases. Finally there is a stills gallery with copious shots from the film and some poster art as well.

Summary


A fine presentation of a film which I am reliably informed is considered a classic by some good judges. Dragon Dynasty show the film off well and fans of the film will be happy. Others, like me, will need to watch a good comedy straight away to get it out of their system.